A Meatless Meal Win!

I've struggled to find meatless meals that are filling enough, but also not super carb-y. A lot of meatless meal ideas I find are always loaded with beans or rice, which are fine in moderation, but I still try to stay away from having them regularly, especially in the evenings. So when I stumbled upon this Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini recipe with only 6 carbs in a serving I knew it was something I had to try out. The verdict? They were DELICIOUS!

Here's what you'll need:

6 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium yellow squash, chopped
8 oz Feta cheese, crumbled 
2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped**
1/4 c. fresh basil, finely chopped**

**I thought that using just one or the other of these would be fine. The taste was powerful enough that I think either/or would have been plenty!
Preheat your oven to 475. Then the fun part, and also the forearm workout part. Scoop out the "guts" of your zucchini so it forms a boat. Your arm will burn unless you are a professional body builder. Keep all the guts, chop 'em up good and set them aside.
Brush the boats with a little bit of olive oil and then place them upside-down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, remove and let cool.

While those are baking, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, onion, salt and pepper and saute until it's soft (3 to 5 minutes). Then, add the zucchini guts back in along with the squash. 
Saute everything until most of the liquid is gone - roughly 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for a little.  Sidenote- when you slice up your tomatoes try not to eat all half of them… yes, they look delicious and yes you need them on your zucchinis! 
Then add in the feta cheese, tomatoes, parsley and basil. Mix well and then add that delicious mixture to the zucchini boats. Again, you may be tempted to eat this bowl of mush all by itself… it will smell SO GOOD at this point! Just trust me and proceed on with the actual recipe.

Bake until the top is slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve, eat, enjoy. Repeat.
Does your family have any favorite meatless meals?

Sallie & Perkins: Evaluation

Hey LFF! Remember us?

It has definitely been awhile since we stopped in so we felt it was high time for an update and hopefully some motivation! We're no experts, obviously, but it helps us to share our debt journey with you all and hear from other people in similar situations. Student loans don't HAVE to be around your whole life. In fact, they SHOULDN'T be! We're getting more and more excited as we near the finish line, but the end is also proving to bring additional challenges our way.

For some reason, I thought the closer we got to being debt free, the easier things would get. I was so, so wrong. It's felt like quite the opposite, in fact. The more we paid off, the more we started feeling a bit more relaxed in our approach to debt. Like, hey! We're getting there, we're paying it off, this little thing here is okay, and that little spending won't hurt us. We really slacked off on sticking to our firm budget we started almost 11 months ago.
I think a problem for us was our budget itself. Yes, the very thing that's kept us on track all this time. When we started this crazy journey last June, our bills, debts and budgets were much different than they are now. But we hadn't made those concrete adjustments in our "master plan" so to speak. Sure we knew we had less debt now, we knew we'd reduced our cell phone bill payments, but did we have the bottom line number for each category still? The answer was no. And for us to keep up the intensity? We needed those specific numbers staring back at us every day.
So we sat down over the weekend and really took a long, hard look at our finances again. We updated our spreadsheets and set more challenging goals for ourselves. Instead of just guessing how much we were going to be able to pay extra each month (like we had been the past few months) we picked a set number that seemed to work with our budget and we plan to stick to it like glue. Trust me, it wasn't all fun and games. Receipts were flying and highlighters were flowing.
luAodf on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

If you're in the process of paying down debt, don't forget to reevaluate where you are at financially every few months or so. Things change, and if you're anything like us, you'll need that exact figure written down to keep you on track. Don't let yourself fall behind simply due to non-planning! 

That being said, we are feeling more motivated than ever and still enjoying watching that number dwindle down. Since we haven't been around in awhile, we also wanted to share that:

Sallie & Perkins paid of $2,255.80 worth of debt in April 2014!!

Still a solid month despite a vacation and getting a bit off track on our budget. We're hoping to really put a freeze on any spending in May, which should be pretty easy with not a lot going on in our lives until the end of the month when we'll celebrate our anniversary. We want to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out, so the no-spending will be extra motivation for us to stick to our goals. When's the last time you really evaluated your budget?

Busy Can Be A Blessing

Yes, I am happy on a Monday. It is possible, I promise! Sure, no one likes to get out of their cozy bed and head to the office, but that's life, right?! I had a great weekend… the weather was beautiful! I just felt like Spring was truly making it's debut over the past couple of days with the gorgeous sunshine and perfect temperatures.

Friday night Jared and I went out with my parents to see Tim Hawkins, a HILARIOUS comedian. My parents bought us tickets as part of my birthday gift and it was a great idea, we had so much fun! I haven't laughed that hard in a lonnngg time. If you need some laughs, check him out on Youtube here. 

Then the ever-so-glorious Saturday came. It's rare that I get time to myself in the house, so I was happy to send Jared off with his guys for an all-day hiking adventure. They started at 4am and hiked almost 30 miles! I took the slightly easier route and started my day with a 2-mile run in our neighborhood ;) The rest of the day I was productive and got a lot of things done, but also made time for some reading and creativity too. These days only come around so often, so I try to enjoy them to the fullest!

That night Kayla and I had a little get-together at her place with some friends and it was such a good, low-key night. Maybe I'm boring, but I'd much rather have a night in with friends than a big, out-on-the-town shindig. Food and games and talking is all I need for a girls night! We were so busy talking, swapping stories and playing a hilarious round of Hedbanz I didn't snap but a couple pictures. That's how you know it was a good night :)
Sunday Jared and I attempted to conquer the world. Household responsibilities we're behind on, yard work, bill-paying, budgeting… you name it, we packed our day full beginning to end. I was exhausted by the evening and happy to turn on Netflix and just veg out for a little before bed. Whew!
Someone commented the other day that I'm the busiest person they know and that's been on my mind a lot lately since they said it. So often I complain about being too busy, about having too many places to go, too many things to do, too many weekends planned out in advance. While I long for downtime, maybe I really shouldn't… I should see the "busy" as a sign that I've got great people in my life to visit with and great opportunities for regular fun and entertainment. Would I want it the other way? With no one to visit with, no one to laugh with and share memories with? Sure, the chaotic schedule sometimes interferes with yardwork, or reading or even sleep. And goodness, I love my sleeping. But I'm really try to see the busy as a blessing, instead of a curse. What about you? Do you welcome the "busy" in your life?

5 Awesome Things + Announcement!

This week has been a really good one for so many reasons, but I'll try to limit myself to five of them, for the sake of the link-up. You can't bend rules when it comes to a link-up or you're basically kicked out of blogging ;) April is always my favorite month and it's living up to my high expectations, per the usual!

ONE - My sweet, precious niece is one today. She's the little cutie who made me an Aunt for the first time ever and I don't think I could love her more. Even though she doesn't live close enough for me to squeeze her all the time, when I do see her there is no better feeling. I can't get enough of her and cannot wait to celebrate her birthday! Love you!

TWO - Finally getting a chance to hang with my parents for a late birthday celebration tonight! Nothing like stretching out the celebrating for an entire week ;)

THREE - Tomorrow Kayla and I are hosting a girl's night in for all of our combined group of ladies. Nothing fancy... just lots of snacks, games and catching up. I can't wait! I need some quality girl time ASAP.

FOUR - Books! This book-lover is finally back on the reading thing. It's been so hard for me to make time for reading. As much as I love it, I always felt like there was something else I should be doing and I haven't read consistently in a long time. Ever since vacation though? I cannot pry the books from my hands. I have flown through 3 books this year already, which is a lot considering last year I might have read 2 books in a year's time. Hoping I can get to the library soon to grab more!

FIVE - Announcing an awesome, motivational link-up with Kristin and I!! 

I never thought I'd be at a point where I was so far from being healthy. I gained lots of newlywed "happy" weight in the first year of our marriage and it's been a struggle to change my lifestyle ever since. In the past 6 months or so I have certainly been headed in the right direction, but still have a long way to go. A huge turning point for me was when Jared and I joined a gym last fall, and when I started really watching what I eat and paying attention to the crap I was putting in my body.
Not quite back to those engagement days yet, but I'm on my way!
Most of you have probably seen me talk about it on Instagram or the blog, but I'm down about 17 pounds from my highest weight and feeling better than ever. I have probably another 10 pounds to shed, and I know these will be much harder, as I get closer and closer to my goal weight. Enter Kristin. The ever motivational twin of mine! It's helped us both a ton to talk about our goals and encourage each other in any way we can. So we thought, why not make it a link up and involve as many gals as we can?!

We want you to set a 4 week goal- it can be anything that you want to accomplish relating to being more fit. It could be getting to the gym a certain number of times, it could be cutting out pop, setting a new running PR, anything at all that you want to challenge yourself with for the next 4 weeks. Kristin and I will post our goals next Thursday May 1st to kick off the challenge. We'd encourage you to post your goals on this day too; then on May 30th, we'll host the link-up for everyone to join in and talk about how they did! 

Kristin made the adorable button for you to share and let everyone know you're committed to the 4 Week Fit Challenge! Plus we're getting all cool and "with-it" and have a hashtag for you to use as your track your progress! 

I hope you guys are all as excited as I am about this. I feel like I've plateaued in my fitness journey, so I feel like this is just the challenge I need to get my butt into overdrive. Let's get #4weeksfit! :)

Cheering Each Other On

Blogging, oh, blogging. How I continually love thee. There are days I think about giving up blogging or putting ole LFF on the back shelf for awhile. It's true, we've all had those thoughts. Blogging gets to be too much, or life's too busy… but yet I keep coming back, daily, to the world of blogs. The people I get to "meet" is a huge reason why. It's amazing the people you can connect with, no matter how similar or different they are from you, no matter if they live near you or in another country. Blogging brings people together and I absolutely love it.

I've made it no secret (and pictures certainly don't lie!) that my weight has fluctuated a lot in the past three years. I've had horrible habits to break and I'm finally feeling like I'm on the right path to becoming fit. It's so encouraging to read about other people's struggles and victories and have people all over cheering each other on. I hope you'll read Jasmine's story so far, and head over to her blog and meet one heckuva' gal. 


Hey there Erin’s friends! I’m Jasmine from www.fleurtyandfit.com!  Erin was so sweet to let me take over her amazing blog for the day! First, let me just say how much I love her! I started following her a few months ago, before I started blogging myself.  I love how cute she and her husband are together—and they are going to be such fun parents one day!! I also LOVE their passion to get out of debt and their Sallie & Perkins series! It really motivates me to get stuff paid off.

A little bit (ok, a lot) about myself—I’m married to my high school sweetheart (insert fairytale music) and am the mother of two VERY energetic boys, Cameron (11) and Tyler (7).

I started my blog in January of this year.  I started writing to keep myself accountable—you see, I’ve got a weight problem—it’s called fat. And I have a lot of it. It’s been hanging around for far too long, and I’m ready to be done with it. So, I got on Pinterest about a year ago and got inspired. I found weight loss blogs and started following them—looking at their progress pictures, reading their weekly weigh in stories, drooling over their meal plans. I finally had enough of squeezing into my too tight size 18s. I decided I wanted to be one of those people with a great weight loss story! I wanted to be one who helps others by being brave enough to put herself out there and change her body. I wanted to change my body, and do it in a way that anyone could do it. No shakes, no pills, no gyms, no gimmicks…just eating and moving. And I wanted to document it all along the way, so, I googled “How to start a blog”. And the rest is history (well not really, it’s only been 4 months)….and a lot of googling. :)

From the beginning…I've always seen myself as overweight, even when I wasn't. I look back at photos from high school at around 125-130 pounds and want to scream for thinking I was anywhere near fat.  My weight really started to creep on in college. I was less active, going out drinking more, and eating crap in the food court or fast food. As nursing school got harder, I did nothing but eat and study. I don't think it really hit me how much I had gained until I joined Weight Watchers for the first time after Nursing School… and I weighed in at about 190. I couldn’t believe I was that fat! Weight Watchers worked for me that time--I was newly married, working night shift, no kids, so it was easy to lose weight. I lost about 50 pounds by eating Boca Burgers, green beans, and mall walking every morning after work. I had finally gotten down to my goal weight (140) and I was so happy. But not for long…enter baby #1 in 2002. Four years later, baby #2 in 2006.   Pregnancy was my excuse to eat ALL THE FRIED THINGS! I gained so much weight with both pregnancies--I don't even remember exactly how much, but I know I was in the 200s.

And I was a mom. My life was not my own anymore. As a mom and a wife, everyone else's needs came before my own. I think that is how most mom's feel--taking a back burner to just get things done, and make everyone else happy. You want to order pizza? Sure—we’ll get take out. Too tired from working, cleaning, laundry, homework…the list goes on. I found myself often pigging out on chips and cookies in front of the TV after the kids are in bed…the only quiet moment I had to myself. 

I have been a nurse for 14 years. Most of those years have been in a corporate wellness environment. I am now a school nurse (which is the BEST job in the world). As a nurse, I have always struggled with feeling like a hypocrite for telling others how to eat healthy and lose weight. Eat this or don’t eat that, you don’t want to get diabetes, heart disease, cancer…In  my head I’m picturing them all looking at me like, “Who are you to tell us how to lose weight?? You’re bigger than me!”

So what changed? I got tired of squeezing into my size 18s. The Unhappy Me on the inside was struggling to keep up with the Happy Me on the Outside.  I felt exhausted ALL the time. When I got off work, all I wanted to do was take a nap—and I only work until 2:30!!  I was starting to see how I felt about myself was affecting my relationship (bow-chica-bow-wow) with my husband (and he doesn't deserve that). My kids are now a little older, and more self-sufficient. My highest weight about a year ago was 224. When I started this journey my starting weight was 217.

I began making myself a priority, and I am blessed that I have a family that supports me. I started to make exercise a priority, which sometimes means missing soccer practice. I changed the way I eat, which sometimes means I cook two separate meals, one for me and one for the boys. I cut out carbs (mainly rice and bread) for about 3 months, and lost 20 pounds. I most recently started to change things up a bit and try to clean up my diet. 

I also take a lot of pictures! I LOVE a good progress picture—even the slightest inch difference I can see motivates me! So far, I’ve continued to lose weight, and I am now at 22 pounds GONE!! I still have a long way to go…my ultimate goal is around 140. That’s another 55 pounds or so to go!! I can’t imagine losing another 55 pounds.  But,  I hope when I get there, my story will be just as inspiring as the others I’ve read.

Come say hi over on my blog or follow me on Instagram!

Things I Should Have Learned By Now

1.  If you're going to prepare food for the crockpot in the morning, put your mascara on AFTER you chop the onions.

2. Speaking of the mornings? No, you cannot sleep in another 10 minutes. You are a slowpoke and need that time to get your life together and get to work on time.

3. Candy is dangerous. Don't buy it. When you receive it, immediately take it to work and share unless you do indeed want to eat that entire bag of Brach's Marshmallow Chicks and Bunnies in one evening.

4. Laundry isn't so bad when you do it little by little throughout the week. Waiting until you have 13 loads of it is stressful- don't let that happen!

5. Your hair does not work well with the 'dirty hair' look. Wash it every.single.morning.

6. Going weeks without a pop and then having one late at night is not a good idea. Your stomach will hurt and you will have weird dreams of a fox parade following you home from work that night.

7. Your age seriously does not matter. Keep doing whatever you love doing and pursue your dreams until they come true. Even if it takes you until you're 60… but let's hope that's not the case.

8. You are given sick days for a reason. Use them and don't feel guilty!

9. Some people in your life will be mean and hard to deal with. It sucks, but negativity is part of life, just don't let it affect yours!

10.  However… love the friends and family you've got with everything in you. Because, they are what matter most. Like my good friend Olaf said, some people are worth melting for.

The 26 Best

As I'm now a professional at being a 27-year-old (two days in and no mistakes so far!) I wanted to look back at the year of 26. Anna always does cute posts like this around her birthday and I wanted to join in and do the same type of post she did. A post about the 26 best things that happened in my 26th year:

1. Spent my 26th birthday in DisneyWorld.

2. Met Robin while in DisneyWorld

3. I became an Aunt for the first time ever to the most precious baby girl in the world :)

4. Caleb and Kayla got married and Jared and I both got to celebrate with them and be a part of their bridal party!!

5. Jared and I celebrated 2 whole years of wedded bliss on May 28th.

6. Sallie & Perkins got introduced on the blog and we really got the ball rolling on our debt. It's amazing to see how far we've come since then! 

7. Got tickets to see Game 6 of the Pacers v. Heat playoffs. Definitely an awesome game that I'll never forget!

8. Visited the state of Arkansas for the first time ever and spent a long weekend with Jared's family.

9. Watched Jared tear it up in his work's softball tournament. I love watching my man play sports!

10. Attended a fun (and cheap!) local festival with Jared. I also got recognized by a blog reader for the first time ever, which made me feel pretty darn cool ;)

11. Roadtripped to Memphis to see some of our good friends get married.

12. Was gifted tickets and able to attend my first ever Ohio State Buckeyes game!! Talk about an EXPERIENCE! My love for college football grew this day.

13. Attended an AWESOME Cincinnati blate and got to meet tons of awesome gals from the area.

14. Roadtripped to visit my sister, brother-in-law and niece for a short weekend. It a whirlwind trip, but so worth it!

15. Helped throw a surprise birthday party for Jared's brother Caleb; Also discovered my absolute favorite cheeseball recipe that weekend. Clearly, a day worth remembering ;) 

16. Celebrated Jared's birthday with a full day of fun and trying out a fancy restaurant in town. Yummm!

17. Celebrated Jared's official 28th birthday with a simple night at home and realized simple is okay!

18. Hosted our first ever Friendsgiving and hope to make this an annual tradition now!

19. Actually got a Thanksgiving "break" for the first time in 4 years, and celebrated as much as possible.

20. Our house losing power became a semi-regular thing, so Jared & I learned to make the best of it... most of the time ;) 

21. Jared and I got to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and enjoy a Christmas-y date downtown.

22. Picked a theme for the upcoming year and I'm still standing by it. I wanted to challenge myself in the year ahead and so far, so good ;)

23. Rang in 2014 in a way we hadn't before: pajamas, puzzles and on the couch... just Jared and I. It was different and not what we expected to do for NYE, but we loved it just the same.

24. Really started pushing myself to try to "be" a runner... My hip pain has slowed me down a little, but I'm still working on it! 

25. Went to Disney, again! ;) What can I say? It's an easy place to get addicted too! 

26. Took the couples trip of a lifetime with Jared and our BFFs to Punta Cana just a week before my birthday. It's a week I'll cherish forever! 
It's fun to break down a year like that, and see what all I really did in just a year's time. A year really isn't that long in the grand scheme of things, but I feel like I try to pack as much fun into that 365-day-window as I can, each and every year. Looking forward to the adventures and excitement that the year of 27 will be sure to bring me :)

Birthday {27}

My birthday fun started well over a week ago, thanks to my awesome sister. She sent me my gift a little early because come to find out, I had to MAKE my own gift :) Yes, that's right. My sister stalked my Pinterest board and since I've been pinning all things Spring and Easter-y, she figured she'd made sure I followed up on those pins. She sent me a big box full of all the colorful yarn, plastic eggs, gluesticks and of course, the wreath itself! Plus an adorable card that she swears my almost-one-year-old niece picked out herself. Talk about a fun package to have waiting at your doorstep!
You can find the original pin with directions and finished photo (since as I type this, I realize I forgot to take one…) but it really doesn't need a lot. I attempted to wrap the eggs two different ways, like the original pin showed. It took a little bit to get the hang of it, and I definitely had more glue on the yarn and on my fingers than I was supposed to at many points in the process.
Once I did a few eggs though I was wrapping and gluing much more quickly. Once you've wrapped about a bajillion eggs, you can start gluing them in any sort of fashion to the wreath.

Other than the adorable, crafty gift, I've been showered with cards, gifts, notes, texts, everything over the past few days. Nothing like a birthday to really make a person feel special! I got to spend time with lots of family and friends and I couldn't be more grateful for the people in my life.
Showing off my scarf from Kayla and Caleb; My inflatable ears came with the card Jared got me!
Jared, of course, made Saturday a great fun day combining both my birthday and Easter. All throughout the day he'd give me a new egg to open, and in each egg would be a slip of paper telling me what the next activity of the day was. It started with "Eat our favorite doughnuts and watch a Disney movie" Um, hello. I was already a happy girl after opening that egg, I didn't need much else to be impressed ;)
But Jared spread out the fun all the day long. From a special birthday CD to listen to while we were out, to the cash I HAD to spend at the Loft; from a lunch date at the Cheesecake factory, to relaxing bath salts and my favorite book waiting on me; from gifts and goodies, to an at-home pretzel making date-- he thought of it all :)

The weekend ended with an incredible service at our church Sunday morning. I love our church all the time, but Easter is always one of my favorite services of the entire year. There is always such a great message and the music is incredible!

After church we got together with the in-laws for way too much food and a delicious cookie, cake - my favorite! I couldn't have asked for more perfect weather yesterday; we were able to relax and hang out and enjoy the fresh air during a relaxing afternoon together.

27. I'm ready for you. I don't feel like I should be that "old" but in reality, the number doesn't matter. I found this picture of when I turned 24 and compared it to yesterday's picture as a 27 year old. Boy, has a lot has happened in those few years. I might not look that different, but I feel like I've grown and changed in ways I can't even describe.

I've never been happier and i know I'm right where I should be in life. Cheers to this year being another great one!